In reality, it's been an off year for blink-182. Despite the worldwide domination tour with Green Day and Jimmy Eat World, it's debatable whether side project Box Car Racer (featuring vocalist-guitarist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker) was more active than the mother band. But an “off year” for the San Diego pop-punk trio still ranks as a phenomenally big year in normal terms. But nothing's been normal since blink-182 sold more than 20 million albums and counting. Blink-182's impact on the countless pop-punk bands of the world irrevocably shaped the face of popular music in the ‘90s and the early ‘00s. The boys from Poway (plus one outsider-we forgive his geographical transgressions) will most likely make this list until the final three chords are struck.
For the past 12 years or so-either as Lenny Kravitz' saxophonist or with acid jazz progenitors Greyboy Allstars-Karl Denson has been a force on the neo-jazz scene. During the last two years, however, his solo project-the groove jazz ensemble Karl Denson's Tiny Universe-has blossomed into a nationwide, sold-out dance-athon. Denson found his vocal chords on this year's album, The Bridge, which also featured spoken word sage Saul Williams, hip-hop luminary Michael Franti (Spearhead) and jazz icons like Fred Wesley, Roy Hargrove and Medeski Martin & Wood's Chris Wood. Denson is among a group of artists who are reinventing jazz to recapture a young audience that missed the heyday.
Famously reluctant to acceptance in the mainstream, this year Pinback achieved just that. Fronted by two longtime San Diego music's luminaries-Zack Smith (ex-Three Mile Pilot) and Rob Crowe (ex-Heavy Vegetable, Thingy)-their brand of delicate indie pop asserted the righteousness of the effeminate male in popular music. Their song “Penelope,” an infectious slice of hand-clapping whisper pop, was a surprising success on San Diego radio. The band has always been a national underground favorite, but their tour for Blue Screen Life found them playing to 600-plus sell-out crowds across the country. This is the “doing it without anyone's help” nominee, thankyouverymuch. If they win the award, they will undoubtedly melt it down and create a haphazard instrument out of its remains.
Well, this nomination is posthumous, but deserved nonetheless. Weeks before the Music Awards, headlining performer and nominee FenixTX struck their final three chords and called it quits. In the year prior to the Awards, however, they were active, most notably on San Diego radio. Their songs “Pheobe Cates” and “All My Fault” served as the summer anthems to the city's throngs of pop-punk fans. Signed to MCA Records, the band's last album, Lechuza, showed a band evolving away from blink-182 mimickry (bassist Mark Hoppus co-managed the band) and into a more heavy rock sound. After numerous world tours with the likes of blink-182 and New Found Glory, along with a track on this year's American Pie 2 soundtrack, the band leaves a noticeable pop culture wake.
Like the best artists do, P.O.D. survived the death knell for rap-rock, the genre that they built their reputation on. After last year's Satellites, the band was nominated for six Grammies, and the record has sold a staggering 5 million-plus copies. At this year's Latin Grammys, they performed onstage with Mexican guitar god, Carlos Santana. Atlantic Records also granted the band their own vanity record label-a telltale sign of major industry power. Vocalist Sonny Sandoval was on the cover of Teen People; guitarist Marcos Curiel was featured on the cover of Guitar World with the caption “Guitar Legends.” After the four south San Diego boys slugged it out for 10 long years, they no longer have to wait for death to get paid (even though they had a more spiritual payoff in mind).
The second album from this Vista-based acoustic trio, titled This Side, sold more than 50,000 copies in its first week. That was good enough to peak at No. 18 on the Billboard charts, and No. 2 on the Country charts. The album remains in the top 10 of the Country charts, selling nearly 20,000 copies a week. They performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and were nominated for two Country Music Awards (“Horizon Award” and “Vocal Group of the Year”). Often called “newgrass,” Nickel Creek are virtuosos of fiddle, mandolin and guitar, having played on the bluegrass circuit since they were pre-teens. Country Music Television (CMT) can't rotate their videos heavily enough, as the network, along with many others, feels the group is the future of acoustic music.
Poway's Unwritten Law falls into the “it's about frickin' time” category. Though they've enjoyed more success than most bands for the last 10-plus years, the power-pop quintet finally took off in 2002. Though it took a literal bomb to get the band a feature in Rolling Stone (guitarist Steve Morris was recently the victim of a homemade bomb tossed onto his balcony), their newest album, Elva, has sold more than 300,000 copies due to the omnipresence of radio singles like “Seein' Red” and “Actress, Model...” In their biggest media coup, after having eight videos rejected by MTV in their career, the video for “Seein' Red” finally cracked into the network, and at one time topped Shakira on TRL's top 10. Most who've watched their career unfold aren't surprised.